I first heard of leeks in Mireille Guiliano’s book French Women Don’t Get Fat. The recipe for Magical Leek Soup is one of the first recipes in the book, and I actually had to Google leeks to understand what exactly they were. They sounded leafy to me, but I quickly learned they belonged to the onion-garlic family.
Since moving to Pune, leeks have been pretty regular in our kitchen. The greenmarket has lovely leeks, and they’re reasonably priced as well. While leek and potato soup is a classic, I like eating the leeks whole or sliced.
I’m one of those cooks who enjoys the “prep,” part of cooking. I like getting my mise-en-place on, washing and prepping my vegetables and laying out my spices and condiments beforehand. But of course, any dish which requires a little less prep is always welcome. Leeks are great because they don’t require too much prep- they may appear imposing with their green heads, but they are a pretty uncomplicated vegetable to work with.
Leeks don’t beg to be peeled. They don’t need “activation,” or overnight soaking. They don’t need a slow-cooker or a big oven. They just need to have the green tops cut off, and rinsed well to get any grit out. Yes, this part takes a little patience. There usually is a fair amount of dirt and sandy grit nestled between the leaves, but once that is rinsed off and the leeks are sliced or chopped, they submit willingly to olive oil, butter and some salt and pepper- and that’s all they really need.
I looked at two recipes with leeks and pasta- Leeks Fettuccine from Guiliano’s French Women For All Seasons, and the other, Nigel Slater’s Pappardelle with Leeks. I sliced the leeks Guiliano-style but cooked them Slater-style, with butter. (Slater claims that “Leeks like butter rather than oil, and a low heat in which to cook,” so I did just that.) Both recipes are pretty bare-boned simple. If you have young leeks you don’t need to do much more to amp up the flavour except cook them with butter. Add cooked pasta, some good cheese, freshly ground black pepper, and herbs like thyme, tarragon or basil and your meal is ready. (I skipped the herbs and added some rehydrated sundried tomatoes.)
Agreed, a ribbon-y pasta looks much nicer with leeks- but I used macaroni because my son loves it.
MACARONI WITH LEEKS AND SUNDRIED TOMATOES
- 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and sliced into half-moons
- 50 g butter (this comes to half a bar of Amul butter, the small 100 g pack- it seems like a lot but you don’t need much else to dress the pasta!)
- 1 ½ cups uncooked macaroni
- ½ cup sundried tomatoes, soaked in water and drained.
- ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook till al dente. Drain and reserve some of the pasta water.
- While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in another large pot over low heat. Add the leeks, season with salt and pepper and let them cook slowly in the butter until soft and tender.
- Once the leeks are cooked, add in the cooked pasta, the sundried tomatoes, a little bit of the pasta water and parmesan. Mix well, pull off the heat and serve. Add more parmesan and butter by all means, if you wish :D